MAD Perspectives Blog

Printing Heads to the Clouds

Peggy Dau - Wednesday, June 09, 2010

HP announced its ePrint Center at Internet Week New York on Monday.  Due to some laptop problems, I've been delayed in sharing my thoughts.  As a former HP employee who left on good terms, I'm still very interested to see what new technologies HP pursues.  While I never worked in the printer group, I feel affinity toward the LaserJet as it was announced the same year I joined HP.  The printer business has been a mainstay for HP ever since. 

 This weeks announcement takes printing to the next level. What does Hp ePrint Center do?  It federates your print capabilities by associating an unique email address with every new ePrint enabled printer.  This allows you to store files in the "cloud" and print to the designated web-enabled ePrinters.  Why is this cool?  It removes the need for print drivers on your device - bit it a laptop, PC, handheld, phone, iPad, etc.  The documents are rendered in the cloud with the relevant print drivers associated seamlessly.  We've all been down the road of downloading or updating print drivers when we upgrade to new devices or printers.  this removes that challenge.

The other interesting aspect of ePrint Center is a service called Scheduled Delivery.  Now companies can create widgets that users can elect to download to their printers.  Based on the personalization that the individual assigns to that widget, they can schedule content to print at pre-defined dates & times or on-demand.  For the purpose of this announcement, HP focused on consumer needs with partners like Nickelodeon and Live Nation sharing the ability to print kids coloring books or concert information without going online via your PC.  it allows simple, fast access to printed content.  As much as we would like to paperless, we simply are not there - yet.

HP will announce the business benefits later this year, but I was imagining how this can benefit B2B companies.  Assuming that web-enabled printers become the norm (and is there is a reason that they wouldn't) this truly enables Print-on-the-Go.  You can print brochures, quotes, proposals, product roadmaps, price lists, manuals to the desired printer from any device.  It truly is content anywhere, anytime.  Imagine you left your sales presentation in the taxi (god forbid!), you can use your smartphone to access the presentation in the cloud and have it print at your local print shop (i.e., Fedex Kinkos, Staples) or at your customer.  This also enables you to create content on the fly and print it easily, without concern for the right print drivers, wherever your are.

Similar to Apples App Store, HP has the App Studio for partners to create printer apps.  Consumer centric businesses are already creating widgets to be downloaded to the new ePrinters, B2B companies could do the same.  Imagine creating customer support or FAQ widgets.  I'm sure there are many more creative ideas out there!

This announcement does take printing to the next logical step and turns what have been primarily output devices into smart devices that can bring incremental value to consumers and businesses.  As with all things "cloud", the usual concerns for security and control still exist.  Yes, this will likely continue to drive ink sales.  And, yes, it gives us all a reason to buy new printers.  But, it addresses long existing challenges with printer drivers, it addresses the conundrum of wanting to be mobile but still need hard copy docs, and it solves that pesky inability to connect an iPad to a printer.

Share your thoughts on this topic.  I'm interested to understand what you think about web-enabled printing.  Will the ability to download widgets make the printer social?

What's your perspective?